A company needs to collaborate with the media to increase its visibility and establish its expertise – but it must be well-prepared.
When an SME is quoted by the media, this free publicity is often welcome. But SMEs must beware – this media coverage is not easy to achieve and is the result of intense preparation.
Press kit: the basics
The entrepreneur must prepare a press kit which explains to the media the nature of the company and its area of expertise. This kit should include:
- Factual information about the company, such as number of employees and, if possible, turnover.
- A list of areas in which the company can offer its expertise to journalists. For example, a small finance company can answer questions about the euro or Swiss franc exchange rate.
- The name, email address and telephone number of the person to contact if a journalist would like an interview.
An SME should also have a list of journalists and media to contact in the case of a special event. This should include local newspapers, magazines, radio stations and TV channels, as well as specialist blogs which might relay information.
NB: it is essential to respond promptly to requests from the media. Journalists work under pressure and do not have a lot of time to write their articles. An SME must meet deadlines and give an interview as promptly as possible. If it does not, no information will be communicated about the company and the opportunity to promote its products free of charge will have been lost.
Preparing a press release
When a company opens a new subsidiary or makes record sales, it might put out a press release to announce this. A good press release includes the following:
- A heading
- A date and place of publication
- A brief, clear presentation of the facts, starting with the most important information. Possibly a few quotes from company employees, emphasizing the importance of the event.
- A paragraph at the end of the press release presenting the company’s activities, repeating its background and providing basic financial data if these are in the public domain (turnover, sales, etc.).
- The press release should always be published online and emailed to media representatives.
The company must remember to present the event it wants to announce. Rather than just communicating turnover, the company should mention its 100-year history, its charity collections or the company's voluntary initiatives to protect the environment. The company needs a story to tell.
Managing your relationship with the media
It is advisable to introduce yourself to the media – in person if possible – before sending out press releases or granting interviews. This helps provide journalists with information about the company and its area of expertise. During an interview, it is important to follow a number of rules:
- Be informed. The SME must be aware of the angle of the article, the type of media and the journalist’s deadline. It is sometimes useful to ask who the other interviewees for the article or video might be.
- Be prepared. The SME’s representative must ask the journalist beforehand what kind of questions will be asked. This will allow preliminary research and full answers to questions.
- Be both confident and cautious. The company representative must answer the journalist’s questions without getting tangled up in the details.
- Be available after the interview. The journalist might need the company to check quotes and send additional information.
- Be tolerant. The final version of the article or video might show an aspect of the company which is different from that expressed by its representative during the interview. This is part of the normal journalistic process. Request amendments only if the journalist has made a major mistake.
Managing a crisis
All companies have to deal with bad news sometimes. In this type of scenario, certain rules should be followed:
- Never avoid the press. On the contrary, speculation and false information circulating about the company need to be stopped.
- Provide specific information. It is pointless to make excuses and give false responses. Companies need to provide all information enabling a better understanding of the problem.
- Provide guarantees. An SME must assert that specific measures will be taken so that this type of problem does not happen again.
If the situation becomes unmanageable, contact the professionals. After a week of media hype, companies are recommended to contact a team specializing in crisis management.
Source: Small Business Marketing Kit For Dummies, Barbara Findlay Schenck, John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2012.